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Author Topic: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight  (Read 8020 times)

Emeralds

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Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« on: February 07, 2007, 10:31:43 AM »

I'm leaning heavily towards the purchase of the Voice Calling camera, VK77A and need some helpful reviews.

The application I have calls for near total darkness use and it is my understanding that this camera has the .05 lux "starlight" mode which according to the company promo makes a moonless cloudy night look like high noon. If this is true, it should do nicely as an observation platform for our application.

The only reviews I have been able to find do either do not address this camera or do not address this feature.

Any help will be much appreciated. I simply want to make the right purchase the first time.

Joe
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Tuicemen

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2007, 03:12:44 PM »

I have never heard of the vanguard refereed to as the "Voice Calling camera,"
Nor did I know it had a starlight mode the sentinel cam does have this mode plus the features of the vanguard camcheck out the info and the demos of the sentinel cam
Depending on your needs there may be cheaper alternatives!
Walmart in the US carrys a color night vision cam for around $60 made by Astak
I have one and I'm very impressed with the nigh vision picture quality!
You could mount it to a Ninja pan&tilt for more flex ability as I and others have done and still come in well under the price of a sentinel or vanguard you just wouldn't have the 44x zoom! :(
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tjdavj

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2007, 03:33:39 PM »

Tuicemen:

All three of X-10's PTZ cameras (Vanguard, Sentinel, and Video Calling system) are identical in all regards with the exception that the Sentinel camera (VK79A/XC24A) has different pan/tilt parameters. They all support "starlight" mode. The Vanguard and Video Calling system both use a VK77A/XC21B camera, they just have different accessories.

Emeralds:
Regarding the "Starlight" mode of the VK77A, Do  be swayed by the hype. There needs to be some source of illumination even in "Starlight" mode. It definitely doesn't require as much light as a standard video camera, but it does NOT work in complete darkness.
Since you didn't explain you what your application is, I would recommend that you try the camera, and return it within the 30 days, if it doesn't work.

Hope this helps.
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Tuicemen

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2007, 03:44:30 PM »

tjdavj  thanks for the clarification! ;) :D ;D
Id still recommend the Astak as it can be picked up from Walmart and be taken back as well! It has 12 infra-red LEDs to aid night vision but is a wired cam! ;) :D ;D
If the quality is OK then a ninja could be picked up for it to be mounted on! ;)
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tjdavj

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2007, 06:00:15 PM »

Tuicemen   I definitely agree with you as long as Emeralds doesn't need the Zoom capability. The Astak cams look much better than anything X-10 has in the same price range.

I guess it really depends on what Emeralds application is.
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HA Dave

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2007, 07:18:00 PM »

The advantage's of the video calling (VK77A) camera would most likely be the Internet control of pan and tilt as well as zoom. The VK77A isn't weatherized so would should be used indoors. With security cameras (and most everything else) I hate to put all my eggs in one basket, and rely on "just one".

I have an IP camera, which can be great for for Internet remote viewing! No server connections or computers running just to service the camera. Some have pan, tilt and zoom... but I haven't seen any with low light... at least not in my price range.

I also have an ASTAK... and as with most lower priced IR the LEDs are slightly visible (a red glow). That might be inconvenient in a dark room.

The Internet control of the pan and tilt, could be accomplished with the ninja and AHP (or PC transceiver plus X10 software, and the VA11A, USB Video Capture Adapter) and any camera.... but no zoom. And not much of a cost saving ether.

A Video Web Server Device could "convert" a regular cam (actually up to a 4 cam) set-up to IP camera(s). But, with no pan, tilt or zoom what-so-ever.

Has anyone used an IR Illuminator with an X10 low light (or starlight) camera?

So many choices..... no perfect choices.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2007, 10:05:34 PM by Dave_x10_L »
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Emeralds

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2007, 11:56:20 PM »

Thank you for the replies. I am acting on tjdavj's advice. I ordered the Voice Calling wireless and IP enhanced package and am hoping for the best. This package came in at about 50% of the cost of the Axis Night Vision camera I had been considering which is neither wireless nor does it have any PT capabilities.

Once the equipment is up and running I will return and post a link so that anyone interested can judge for themselves how well the equipment functions. My primary application is nocturnal observation of the breeding behavior of C.caninus (the emerald tree boa), a keystone SA boid species.  Although our facility is not bathed in total darkness, it is very dark being underground with no windows. The only light source will be some LEDs on temperature controllers, and various environmental readouts. This is barely enough to navigate with, so I believe it will be at best a real challenge for this equipment.

We cannot use IR emitting cameras for this application because these animals have IR sensory pits which detect IR relaying it as visual information.
The Axis camera boasts LUX specs less impressive than those advertised by X10 in starlight mode and these cameras are currently in used by a colleague and work well so I am hopeful.

Thanks again for the input.

Joe P.

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Emeralds

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2007, 05:26:57 PM »

Ordered late on the 7th and the package arrived on Saturday the 10th which impressed me greatly. I took a few moments to set up and test the camera in a wireless CCTV setup and it worked immediately, moving effortlessly if somewhat slowly through the Pan/Tilt range but I was unable to get it to get a sharp focus on any object upon which it was not zoomed in. In other words, when fully zoomed out, the picture was a bit fuzzy. At this stage, the wireless aspects of the equipment function flawlessly.

I then progressed to the next step, computer integration. This proved a bit more of a challenge, but after a couple of hours of fighting with my computer, I figured out that the wireless transmission of the camera was interfering with my wireless G computer. The fix was simple, I just changed transmit frequencies on the camera and the transceiver and I was back in business. The software although not the slickest I’ve seen, was straight forward enough to muddle through without having to do much reading. The camera was another story however. It took quite a while to understand the command structure for controlling the electronic mechanisms of the camera. It was neither intuitive nor was it straight forward. If you didn’t have access to the net or the manual, the likelihood of successfully adjusting any of the cameras settings was nil.

With the room fully lit, the camera preformed quite admirably for the price point, actually much better than expected. However, once the lights were off, that was it. I’m reminded of a comment I read in another review where the reviewer said “the ham sandwich I had for lunch had better reception”. Well, a ham sandwich may not have provided quite as good a picture in the dark as the Vanguard camera, but it would certainly have been a close match.

In the end, I had the camera online less than 20 hours when I requested an RMA #. Once again to the company’s credit, there was no problem in getting the authorization for the return and I anticipate the same will be true in reference to getting my outlay returned.

In the end, if you are looking for an economical PTZ unit that is solidly constructed and mechanically and electronically sound, I think this one will not disappoint. It has an exceptional optical zoom, very nice auto-focus functions and the software is descent. As long as you don’t intend to do anything in a low light environment, you won’t be disappointed.   
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Tuicemen

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2007, 05:48:26 PM »

Emeralds:   Thanks for the update!
Sorry to hear it wasn't what you were looking for!
I'm thinking the major problem with finding  a cam will be the low light requirements you have.
Nice write up! let us know if you find a cam to suit your needs! ;)
If you find one you can always mount it to a Pan And Tilt (ninja) to provide you with the movement you need!
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tjdavj

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2007, 07:43:45 PM »

Emeralds,  Thanks for the update..
I am curious as to whether you actually set up the camera for "starlight" mode? ie: adjusted the AGC gain thru the remote control..

Also, are you saying that when the camera was NOT using the zoom function, that the image was blurry? If so, then either the auto-focus was mis-adjusted or the optics were mis-aligned. (or a parameter in the camera configuration was incorrect.)

Sorry to hear that it didn't work, but from my observations, low-light cameras [of the same optical quality as the Vanguard] have a considerable ways to go, and just aren't ready for prime-time, unless you're willing to spend considerably more money. Even at that,  you will probably get better results with a real night-vision camera, and a good IR source, although without color.

Good Luck..
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HA Dave

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2007, 08:59:45 PM »

Thanks for the update!!!

I have been wondering about this since I read about snakes having "IR sensory pits which detect IR relaying it as visual information". (Which makes me think I need a hobbie).

I am not a "light" expert... but isn't there some portion of the spectrum that snakes can't see, that a camera could (or be modified to use)?
« Last Edit: February 14, 2007, 01:58:32 AM by Dave_x10_L »
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Emeralds

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Re: Prospective buyer needs helpful insight
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2007, 12:06:42 AM »

Hi Guys:

Well, believe me when I say that no one was more disappointed than me. I had hopes (though admittedly not high) that the camera would do what I needed and although it preformed admirably (much better than expected) in daylight and even with moderate light, the low light preformance was non-existant.

Naturally I've investigated quite a few of the PTZ netcam options and am left with the disappointing conclusion that as everyone knows, saving money is not condusive to finding a solution. The Axis 213 and the same product branded by Canon, the model number eludes me at the moment, can in reality do what is needed, but then, the reality is I'm looking at a 350% higher expendature as well.

Never the less, that's what's gonna end up happening. I have a friend who has 3 of the 213s which he uses in exactly the same application, (picture attached) and he is delighted with them.

For those looking for a PTZ webcam without the need for night vision, I really believe this product to be a true bargain. I'm quite sure that the focus problem I was having was camera specific and not model related, and that it would have been easily and quickly remedied by the company. Unlike some others, I got through to X10 customer support quite expeditiously. The product has some short comings as one might well expect at this price point. The PZT funcitons are very slowwwwwwww and the range of motion is somewhat limited, and the camera adjustments are anything but intuitive. However, all of these are minor issues and I really have no problem endorsing the product I was provided with the previous "no star-light mode" exclusion. Incidently, I was able to figure out the camera adjustments and am quite confident I took the equipment through every possible setting, but in the end, it needed quite a bit of light to be functional.

Hope you guys find this helpful.

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